Groups seek halt to entry of ‘golden rice’

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/24 April) — Environmental groups in the city are gathering signatures for a petition asking the Department of Agriculture (DA) to prevent the entry of the so-called golden rice, a variety of genetically modified rice, into the local market.

The group said in a statement Tuesday they are calling on the DA-12 office to stop the commercialization of the crop over concerns it could cause genetic pollution.

“If the golden rice is introduced into the market, there is a significant risk of its genetically modified gene crossing over to the indigenous varieties, destroying the purity of our organic rice farms,” said Go Organic Davao City (GoDC) member Dagohoy Magaway.

GoDC, Third World Network and Interface Development Interventions (IDIS) held a forum on golden rice at the Ateneo de Davao University last Tuesday afternoon.

According to IDIS executive director Ann Fuertes, the group is targeting 50,000 signatures from Davao City, Zamboanga Peninsula, North Cotabato, Agusan and Bukidnon.

The group has so far gathered 4,000 signatures, Fuertes said.

Over 50 native varieties of rice are grown throughout Mindanao, using indigenous organic farming techniques, the groups opposing the entry of golden rice said.

These varieties are often marketed as heirloom rice and command high prices in organic markets.

“If we consumers all stand up and reject pesticide-intensive and GMO-dependent agriculture in favor of organic farming, we can put our island—and our country—on the path to a sustainable future and ensure a healthier future for everyone,” Go Organic Mindanao coordinator Joy Pelina said in a statement.

TWN associate and GoM member Lee Aruelo said that similar actions have been initiated across the country.

“The objective of these petitions is to show the Aquino administration that there is significant opposition to the GMOs and golden rice. In the interests of our farmers and food security, GMOs must be banned from being introduced into our country’s farmlands,” he said.

The petition called on the DA to uphold Republic Act 10068 or the Philippine Organic Agriculture Act, which seeks to develop and protect organic agriculture nationwide by stopping the entry of GMO-laced crops.

The petitioners cancelled plans of holding a motorcade to the DA regional office, saying they were still waiting for additional signatures from other parts of the region.

But in an interview, Reynaldo Ebora, director of the University of the Philippines National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, questioned the opposition to GM crops such as golden rice.

“If these groups are against a certain issue regarding GM crops, the scientists developing the crops are always ready to answer any questions,” Alfonso said.

“What the groups are doing is spreading different issues all at once, which leaves those who are studying these varieties of crops in a difficult position,” he said.

Alfonso said the groups should not ask for the ban of the crops.

“We’re looking for alternatives for what is available in the market,” he said. “Why should you ban the crop when you are not offering an alternative approach to existing issues?” (MindaNews)